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Wrestling Then and Now
RICK SILVER LOOKS AT NOSTALGIA

by Rick Silver

The following article originally appeared 2/11/2003 on 1Wrestling.com. Rick Silver requested that it be posted here as well.

I'm sure you'll all want to give me a piece of your mind at ricksilveruwf@aol.com.

nos·tal·gi·a
n.

1. A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past.
2. The condition of being homesick; homesickness.

Catchphrases are repeated over and over ad nauseum until becoming part of industry lexicon. Like Steve Austin's "WHAT?!" and the Rock's "IF YA SMELL WHAT THE ROCK IS COOKIN'!", heard over and over again to the point of self-parody, the word "nostalgia" has suddenly become the de rigueur buzzword among the internet elite. Every internet wrestling "news" site, somewhere, has a writer who has come to the independent conclusion that Hulk Hogan's WWE return is "nostalgic," "pops TV ratings short-term but doesn't translate into business," "translates into boring television," and other such nonsense. The word has become a catchphrase - a blanket statement made by internet critics to explain away a phenomenon they simply do not understand. These internet critics who dismiss superstars like Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, Jerry Lawler and Ric Flair have no comprehension of the most important attribute a professional wrestler must have in order to connect with their audience- the ability to use their charisma and body language to make a crowd react to their every movement.

Internet writers, by and large, subscribe to the errant theory that American wrestling should follow the Japanese business model: wrestlers should be treated as athletes, feuds should revolve around championship belts and not "fake" personal issues, and, to add to the realism of the event, wrestlers should be able to wrestle for 25 minutes at full speed while realistically getting dropped on his head seven or eight times per match and valiantly kicking out to show his fighting spirit. This is the type of wrestling to which they react: the "athletic" style. These people could watch an entire wrestling show and not give a care as to how the crowd reacts. They don't judge the success or failure of a match by the crowd reaction, they base their opinion of the match on their mind-boggling mathematical "workrate" formula, some kind of equation involving actual wrestling maneuvers, reversals, non-repetition of moves, additions to a wrestler's "moveset" and their mastery of "psychology," which, in internet speak, has nothing to do with one's ability to work a crowd, but has everything to do with one's ability to work his opponent.

What internet writers fail to accept is that their "realistic" wrestling is about a million times more "fake" than any "fake" wrestling I've ever participated in or seen. I have bad news for you all - in real life, if Hulk Hogan punched you three times, dropped a leg into your windpipe, and covered you, you'd probably have a hard time kicking out. Those who complain about The Undertaker no-selling for smaller opponents - uh, hello? He's almost seven feet tall and over 300 pounds! What in the world is someone the size of Jeff Hardy going to do to him?

What is unrealistic and exposes the business more than anything is watching today's internet darlings go through an entire match that looks like it was scripted move-for-move beforehand. Each move and countermove is rehearsed and performed with no emotion or facial expression. If they lose their spot in the script, you can tell: they get flustered, they re-do the spot, and you know something's gone wrong. You get the feeling, watching these kids of matches, that the wrestlers are putting on an exhibition of their athletic prowess rather than trying to win a match, trying to legitimately show each other up by using flashy moves rather than entertaining the audience. It has become "working the worker" rather than "working the fans." To use an analogy, it is as if every wrestling match has become the equivalent of the NBA Slam Dunk Challenge, rather than an actual NBA game. It bores me, and it bores just about any American wrestling fan who hasn't taken the time to "smarten" themselves up to the point where they can only enjoy wrestling matches of this nature.

The whole phenomenon reminds me of audiophiles who "turn themselves on to Jazz" suddenly, as if they've had an epiphany by reading a couple of articles by critics who tell them that Jazz music is what they need to listen to in order to truly appreciate the nuances of their audio system. They sit mesmerized in front of their speakers, listening in silence, breaking from their trance only to nod appreciatively when a difficult passage has effortlessly been reproduced for their listening pleasure. This is your "smart" wrestling fan - always sitting on his hands, always watching the match intently for signs of athletic prowess, only applauding when the wrestlers have pulled off a difficult or painful-looking maneuver. What fun is that?

Nostalgia is supposed to be a bittersweet memory, like when you remember the good times you've had with someone who has passed away. Hulk Hogan returning to wrestling is not nostalgic. It doesn't remind me of the good times I had watching him as a child. Hulk Hogan is here, now, and is just as vital and important as he was in 1983, and you can feel the belief in him rain down from the top of the arena to the front row in any arena in America today.

I'll get nostalgic for Hulk Hogan when he stops wrestling and fades away into the woodwork. For now, unlike the critics who are smarter than me and can dismiss Hulkamania by explaining it away, I'll be with the majority of fans enjoying Hulk Hogan's final successful run on top of the wrestling world - and I'll put in my Rock 'n' Roll Express vs. Midnight Express tapes when I need to feel nostalgic about the days when wrestlers would throw a bunch of spots together but actually have it make sense in the context of a wrestling match, rather than flip-flopping around as if they were performing at an Ice Capades exhibition.

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